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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional
A federal judge ruled yesterday that Proposition 8 – California’s ballot-measure that revoked the state’s same-sex couples’ right to marry – is unconstitutional on grounds that it violates due process and equal protection clauses.  Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision stated that proponents of Proposition 8 were unable to give any rational basis for the measure, and went on to say:

“In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples…this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.”

Though this represents a huge victory for the marriage equality movement, many LGBT activists and allies believe strongly that this is not enough, and want to go beyond marriage to afford the benefits of this institution to all people, regardless of marital status.  Advocates of same-sex marriage point out its importance in terms of sharing of benefits and assets.  However, a number of advocates rooted in economic justice and people of color organizing point out that the legal rights afforded by state-recognized marriage benefit largely those couples who have access to a number of resources already, and call for the recognition of alternative family structures and the separation of basic human rights – such as access to health care – from marriage altogether.  Yesterday’s ruling is an important milestone for LGBT persons being regarded equally under the law, but we have much further to go.

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Lady Gaga performing with her hands raised, and the words ‘STOP SB70’ written on her left arm

Due to the efforts of young, queer, immigrants’ rights organizers in Arizona, singer and performance artist Lady Gaga denounced the controversial SB1070 law last weekend at her sold-out concert.  Lady Gaga has placed herself as a prominent advocate and voice for LGBTQ rights, and young organizers from Arizona seized upon the opportunity to spread the word that immigrants’ rights are LGBTQ rights, asking the pop star to meet with them and speak out against the law.  The singer reportedly met with these organizers the day before the concert, and performed with the words “STOP SB1070” written on her arm. Speaking to the audience of 14,000 about the law, Lady Gaga said that “we have to be active; we have to protest…we will peaceably protest this state.”  The singer also dedicated a song to a boy whose brother had been deported in a raid, saying that “it’s important that people understand it’s a state of emergency for this place and this state.”  Though some of the more controversial aspects of the law were put on hold by a federal judge last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has promised to appeal the decision.

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By Susana Sánchez, Community Mobilization Intern

Last week on a press conference on Capitol Hill, key lawmakers, joined by 37 immigration, LGBT, civil rights and religious faith based groups, expressed their support for including the Uniting Families Act (UAFA) into the comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Unlike bi-national heterosexual couples, current immigration law does not permit Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender partners of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to obtain legal permanent resident status. Many LGBT couples have been unable to bring their partners to the country or have experienced an array of difficulties due to this law. UAFA would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by granting “permanent partners” the same right to obtain legal residence status as married couples and would allow LGBT binational couples to petition for their spouses to come to the US.

This is a landmark legislation for both the immigration and LGBT rights movements. It would allow many LGBT couples that for years have been forced to live apart or to move to other countries to finally establish a home in the United States. It is also a more comprehensive immigration reform because it grants equal rights to the entire immigrant community, and it is important for Latina reproductive rights movement because it acknowledges the diversity within the Latino immigrant community.

(more…)

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May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  As members of the reproductive justice movement, we must remember that homophobia and transphobia are integral pieces of sexual and reproductive oppression.   Que siga la lucha!

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It was 5:53 in the morning. The rain was pouring down, and the No. 6 train uptown was now ten minutes late. None of that mattered though, I was excited. I knew that in just a few hours I would be in a different city, completely, being an advocate for what I believe in. I was going to participate in a rally that would voice concerns over the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to Health Care. While representing NLIRH as an intern, and with other advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, Advocates for Youth, NOW, the Hispanic Federation, Voces Latinas, the Pro-Choice Education Project, and countless others, I was going to stand up for women’s and reproductive rights.

The Stupak Amendment does not affect only women and people of color. As a man, I understand that my voice against human rights violations is just as important. My intersections of identity man, Latino, gay, Catholic — are all important in fighting for equality. Some people think that just because you’re a man, you can’t be a feminist. The truth is, I am a man AND I am a feminist. I have no place in taking away the human rights of a woman. That said, I will continue to fight these rights. The bus we took to D.C. We were all united for women’s rights, regardless of gender, race or age. (more…)

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Esmeralda: A Transgender Detainee Speaks Out from Breakthrough on Vimeo.

For Esmeralda, being a transgender woman in Mexico was hard enough, but nothing could have prepared her for her experience after being placed in a US detention center. Seeking refuge from the discrimination she had encountered in her homeland, the last place she thought she would encounter the same discrimination was in the very place she was seeking help and compassion. During her time in a US detention center, she was forced to use the washroom in handcuffs, forced to live in isolation without time for recreation, and was forced to perform sexual activities with a male guard. After being treated unjustly for being transgender she started having suicidal thoughts and pleaded to be able to see someone who could help her. After a few months of being ignored and treated inhumanely, she decided to cancel her asylum request and return to Mexico, where life would be better than the harsh circumstances she was facing in the detention center.

Knowing the difficulties and discrimination she would face, Esmeralda found the courage to come back to the US and file for asylum once again. This time she was held in a detention center for men, and frequently feared for her life. However, she was soon granted asylum and now Esmeralda is an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse.

For many women seeking to come to the US in search of a better life for themselves and their family, Esemralda’s story is too familiar. Many women are forced to tolerate verbal and physical abuse and are denied medical attention and visitation rights. These women are sisters, daughters, and mothers forced to be treated inhumanely. We must demand justice for them and countless other who face this brutal reality. Join us in asking congress to restore fairness today!

By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

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The Army and the Air Force discharged more women than men in 2007 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits gay and lesbian people from serving in the military if they are open about their sexuality. November marks the 14th anniversary of this legislation.  Today more than 12,000 service members have lost their jobs due to this policy. Of those 12,000 discharged members, women outnumber the men by far.

 

According to the information gathered by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network under a Freedom of Information Act request,

 

While women make up 14% of Army personnel, 46% of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, 49% of its discharges under the policy last year were women.

 

Some advocacy groups postulate the reason behind women being discharged more than men under this law is “lesbian baiting”, in which a woman rejects a man who in turn accuses her of being a lesbian. Furthermore, they speculate that women are accused of being lesbians if they give subordinates poor ratings in performance reviews. The standard for accusing a person for being gay or lesbian in the military is very low. Overall in 2007, the Army discharged 302 soldiers under the policy , up from 280 in 2006. The Air Force dismissed 91 people, down from 102 from the previous year. The Navy discharged 166 and The Marine Corps discharged 68.

 

In May, a landmark appeals court ruling, Maj. Margaret Witt v. Dept. of the Air Force, said the government must justify each individual discharge under “don’t ask, don’t tell”, which means that the military must now show how Witt posed a liability to her job because of her sexuality. Moreover, 143 members of congress are co-sponsoring the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

 

These are steps in the right direction to fight against the unfair treatment of LGBT communities in the armed forces. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is one that promotes discrimination and hate towards LGBT communities. Not only do the numbers show an overwhelming disparity between men and women, but it also opens the door for harassment to go unpunished in the military.

 

Stephanie Alvarado 

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New York has set a precedent in recognizing the needs of transgender youth in juvenile detention centers by passing a policy that finally addresses the problems that LGBT youth face within these detention centers.  On the day that Governor Paterson was sworn into office, March 17th, a policy was passed that allows transgender youth in the NY juvenile jails to choose their type of uniform, the name they wish to be called, and ask for special housing according to gender identity. The type of uniform and housing preferences will be referred to a special committee who will determine the legitimacy.

 

Furthermore, this new policy prohibits staff from asking residents their sexual orientation or gender identity and staff are encouraged to talk about what it means to be LGBT. This new policy also calls on the staff to be educated on what and how to use the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender appropriately when talking with the youth. When documenting information about the transgender youth the staff is to use the preferred name and pronoun that is chosen by the youth themselves.

 

This policy is a step in the right direction into understanding the importance of providing comprehensive policy that will cater to the needs of transgender youth. As cited in the NY Times article, in a 2001 report the Urban Justice Center found that “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth routinely experienced discrimination, harassment and violence in New York’s juvenile justice system.” With this being a reality with many incarcerated transgender youth, this policy aims to make a difference in the treatment and understanding of transgender youth. Moreover, this is an important step in bringing awareness to the needs of transgender folks in general as they are often placed in the back burner of LGBT movements and advocacy groups. This also illustrates the diverse needs of the LGBT community, demonstrating that the obstacles LGBT communities face extend beyond gay marriage and more importantly creates a discourse of not just tolerance, but understanding and education.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Alvarado, Policy & Research Intern

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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City is offering a free English-as-a-Second-Language class for LGBT immigrants!  In a country in which homophobia, transphobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment are unfortunately common, The Center is providing an important service free of cost and in a space where queer immigrants can feel safe and learn an important skill.  The next round of courses start on April 28; to learn more about this and The Center’s other services and events, call 212-620-7310 or visit The Center’s website.

(Via VivirLatino)

–Veronica Bayetti Flores

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